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Bar News - November 18, 2015

Book Review: Law Primer May Be Useful to Some


Law 101: Everything You Need to Know about the Legal System (fourth edition)
By Jay Feinman
Oxford University Press
Hardcover, 359 pages

I struggled to finish this book. I struggled not because it is poorly written; itís not. The author is an experienced law professor and his style is very engaging. Itís not because the material isnít interesting either; Iím a lawyer, so of course Iím interested. The problem I have is that I have read this book before, just in a longer form, over three years, multiple professors, several textbooks and innumerable hours on my own and in class and in the lunchroom in deep discussion and analysis.

As the title indicates, Law 101 is a book that surveys what we all took in our first year or so of law school; Con Law, Civ Pro, Torts, Contracts, Property, Crim Law, and Crim Pro. While it was nostalgic to wander down memory lane and remember the old chestnuts like Worldwide Volkswagen and Palsgraf, it didnít hold my attention.

Having said that, if you have a spouse who often wonders why you think the way you do as an attorney, or a friend or relative who is thinking of going to law school, this is an excellent book. It presents all of the first year law school subjects in a clear and concise manner that is easy to understand. In fact, I wish that I had read it before my first day of law school; it would have provided a fine roadmap that I was unable to puzzle out myself until close to the end of the second semester.

This is the fourth edition, put out in 2014, so it discusses recent notable cases such as Citizens United and Sebelius. Itís kind of frightening actually how much new law has been decided since I left law school inÖ well, we donít really need to dwell on that. But if you have been practicing, you have probably read and thought more about cases such as Citizens United than what is presented here. Again, for that person who has not suffered the fear and trepidation of standing up in class to brief a case only to be slaughtered in the aftermath, the book is current and fresh.

To summarize then, Law 101 is a survey book and it has all the advantages and drawbacks of every survey course we took in college; it is a good, broad overview, but shallow. Strangers to the subject may find it interesting and even valuable; subject matter experts (which we are all supposed to be... right?) may find it hard to pay attention to.

Now, if you are looking for a book that is unrelated to law but is gripping, emotional, and true, I recommend Ashleyís War by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon.

Eric Cook

Eric Cook is an attorney who lives in Portsmouth and has practiced in New Hampshire since 1998.

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